San Francisco Presidio

In the Mission / Presidio chain, the Presidio de San Francisco (1776) comes 9th and is the 3rd of four pairings of Missions and Presidios:

  1. Mission San Diego de Alcalá and the Presidio de San Diego (1769)
  2. Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo and the Presidio de Monterey (1770)
  3. Mission San Francisco de Asís and the Presidio de San Francisco (1776)
  4. Mission Santa Bárbara (1786) and the Presidio de Santa Barbara (1782)

It was here in 1776, that Spanish soldiers and their families settled and lived on the windy, harsh, sand covered environment that frequently ripped apart thatched buildings and drove civilian inland to Mission Dolores where the weather was more tolerable. Under Spanish control, soldiers built an adobe fort (Fort Point) at the entrance to San Francisco’s harbor to protect the complex.

The United States seized the fort in 1846 at the beginning of the Mexican-American war, as part of their campaign to take Northern California. Within a matter of days, the U.S. controlled San Francisco, Sonoma, and Sacramento. During this period the Presidio saw little action because the U.S.-Mexico war was over before the Presidio officially opened under U.S. control in 1848.

For the next 150-years, the Presidio remained an active military installation (until 1995). It was the center for defense of the Western U.S. during World War II and it was here that the order was given by Roosevelt to intern Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. In the Presidio Visitor Center you can see a copy of the orders signed by Roosevelt.

These days, the Presidio now sits in the middle of Golden Gate Park and is home to a number of tourist attractions: the National Cemetery, the Walt Disney Family Museum, the Battery Chamberlin, Fort Point, Crissy Field, the Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion, etc.

There are also lots of hidden secrets in Presidio Park and a few “unofficial” cemeteries outside the National Cemetery. Buried under the debris left by a missile site and later a parking lot, the San Francisco Marine Hospital had its own site where they buried sailors who passed through SF but never left… young foreigners with no families or money (1881-1912). The location of this cemetery was unknown for a number of years until it was discovered in 1989 and kept secret until 1996 when the military left. It’s thought that between 600-700 people are buried here in unmarked pauper graves.

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